King Lear- The First Act

We have now completed our reading of the Act One in King Lear. We will now begin to explore the first act through a series of individual students tasks.

They will publish these tasks on their own personal blogs.

The Plot Timeline

Looking back on Act One, make a timeline that identifies the major highlights of the action. Ensure that any events you include are significant and that you have explained what happened in them substantially.

Dramatic Irony

As per the last blog post, complete the task of describing at least 3 instances of dramatic irony in the first act. You can refresh your knowledge here.

Keeping Track of the Action

In order to keep up with the events in the play, answer the following questions. Where you can, use evidence from the play to support your answer.

  1. At the end of scene 1, Goneril and Regan discuss their father’s behavior. What does this dialogue add to our knowledge of the two sisters, their father and the relationships in the family?
  2. How does Edmund set his trap for Gloucester and Edgar? Is there anything in particular that ensures it is successful?
  3. How does Goneril believe Lear is behaving now he has abdicated his power? What does she intend to do about it (scene 3)?
  4. Explain the situation in scene 4. What is making Goneril so angry with her father? Do you think that Lear is the victim in this scene? Why/why not?
  5. What is the fool trying to tell Lear in scene 5?

Language Devices

Shakespeare uses a range of language devices in this opening act. We have already covered dramatic irony. Now think about metaphor. Some of the traits of the characters are developed through this device.

Find 3 examples of metaphor in the first act and explain what they reveal about the character they are directed at.

Character Quotes

For the characters below, find a quote in the play that best summarizes their personality and agenda so far. Explain why you have chosen the quote you have.

King Lear








The Fool

The Character of King Lear
The last two scenes (4 and 5) are important as it marks Lear’s first steps towards self-knowledge and realizing the full extent of the foolishness of his behavior.
1. Find some quotes from Lear where he makes a mention of beginning to see the truth of things.
2. Lear sends Kent away with a letter in scene 5. Is this significant? Explain the connection between Lear and Kent. Why is Kent a vital part of the story? Is he just a loyal subject to Lear or does his character represent more than this? Discuss your ideas and opinions on this subject.
3. How much do you sympathize with Lear by the end of the Act? Explain your answer and justify with evidence from the text.
Each of these tasks is designed to take you a fair amount of time. You should not rush your answers. Think about the question, look back at the script of the play and use as much evidence as you can. These 6 tasks should take you the whole 5 periods that I am away for. Enjoy!

Posted by Renee Plunkett

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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